The Ethereal Plane
The Ethereal Plane is coexistent with the Material Plane and often other planes as well. The Material Plane itself is visible from the Ethereal Plane, but it appears muted and indistinct; colors blur into each other and edges are fuzzy.
While it is possible to see into the Material Plane from the Ethereal Plane, the latter is usually invisible to those on the Material Plane. Normally, creatures on the Ethereal Plane cannot attack creatures on the Material Plane, and vice versa. A traveler on the Ethereal Plane is invisible, insubstantial, and utterly silent to someone on the Material Plane.
The Ethereal Plane is the seat of emotional forces, the mist-shrouded home of haunts and horrors, and the ever-present doorway between the worlds of the Inner Sphere. The Ethereal Plane coexists with these planes, interpenetrating them and generally mimicking their contours and vistas, albeit with greatly reduced visibility thanks to drifting fog and the slow rise and fall of fading sheets of light like the somber interior of a thunderstorm.
From within the Ethereal Plane, these neighboring worlds appear hazy and indistinct, as if viewed through frosted glass. Inhabitants of neighboring planes can’t perceive the Ethereal Plane at all, though certain mortals blessed or cursed with psychic sensitivity sometimes catch glimpses of its vistas. Since the Ethereal Plane is generally invisible from the other planes of the Inner Sphere, creatures under the effects of spells like ethereal jaunt and etherealness cannot be seen by creatures who are not themselves ethereal. Normally, creatures on the Ethereal Plane cannot attack creatures on the Material Plane, and vice versa.
Within the mists of the Ethereal Plane, warped, indistinct versions of locations overlap their Inner Sphere counterparts. This, coupled with the inherent weightlessness of creatures in the plane, makes it tempting to use the Ethereal Plane as a vantage to scout out unknown locales by passing through incorporeal walls and floating over traps with ease. The natural denizens of the plane make this a frightful prospect, however, and ensure that most forays into the Ethereal Plane are brief endeavors. Among the deadliest of local hazards are the blood-red xill—warlike, plane-shifting outsiders who incubate their eggs in living mortals.
Worse still, hideous, cackling night hags use the Ethereal Plane as a byway to the Dimension of Dreams, where they slip into nightmares to abduct mortal souls.
The twisted remnants of mortal souls comprise the vast majority of the Ethereal Plane’s inhabitants. Some souls, freed from their physical bodies by death, remain tethered to the Ethereal Plane by profound emotional distress and cannot proceed along multiversal currents to join the plane of their racial, ancestral, or religious disposition until they sever the powerful emotional ties that bind them. Indeed, the longer these souls remain stalled on their afterlife journey, the closer they slide toward the Negative Energy Plane, and the more of their memories and personalities become subsumed by raw emotional distress and psychic damage. These souls eventually manifest as incorporeal undead, frequently in the form of wraiths and spectres.
Spiritualists call out to the spirits of the Ethereal Plane and open their physical minds as refuges for them to inhabit. With practice and the help of a trained spiritualist, a spirit can even take its own physical form on the neighboring planes by cloaking itself in a sheath of ectoplasm, the ghostly substance that acts as a veil between worlds. These spirit guides are known as phantoms, and while they are loyal to the spiritualist to whom they are bound, the emotional connection to the Ethereal Plane remains strong, manifesting in jealousy and fiery outbursts from even the kindest of souls. The ectoplasmic nature of the Ethereal Plane is extraordinarily susceptible to the thoughts and emotions of the plane’s inhabitants. The ethereal version of a physical location is informed not just by its actual dimensions and appearance, but also by the memories and impressions of the spirits that haunt it. For example, on the Ethereal Plane, an old mansion might look as it did in the era of its ghostly inhabitants. If those spirits find final rest, their memories cannot sustain the structure, and it falls into an ethereal ruin. Some incorporeal spirits become so entwined with the emotional nature of the plane that they can manifest these ectoplasmic vistas in an overlapping location on a neighboring plane, temporarily cloaking it in a disturbing reflection of some past incarnation.
In a similar way that locations in the outside world possess overlapping etheric reflections, mortal creatures also have ethereal doppelgangers in the form of etheric doubles that exactly overlie their physical forms. The etheric double is a vessel for the cosmic breath of life that gives a creature animate force, most commonly known as ki. This energy collects in seven blazing vortices of colorful energy known as chakras, which bind the etheric double and the physical body together and distribute vital life energy to both. This energy extends 2 to 3 feet beyond the outlines of the creature’s physical form to create its aura, a nimbus of colorful occult energies that reveals much about a creature’s disposition and emotional state.
A creature’s etheric double, aura, and chakras are not visible except to those with the knowledge or magic to see them. From the Material Plane, this involves esoteric use of the Perception skill by a creature with the Psychic Sensitivity feat or any of a number of spells.
From within the Ethereal Plane, all it takes to observe the interplay of these forces is simple concentration— if you know what to look for, it becomes plainly visible.
Interpreting this information, of course, is another matter. An etheric double is outlined in violet-gray or blue-gray luminescence. Unlike an astral body generated by astral projection or a lucid body of the Dimension of Dreams, an etheric double is not normally capable of acting as a separate vehicle of consciousness.
Finally, the sweeping expanse of the Ethereal Plane is home to countless pocket realities known as demiplanes.
Many of these unique realms are the private domains of powerful arcane spellcasters, the playgrounds of minor gods, the experiments of the inscrutable elohim, or the prisons of creatures that pose such danger to the cosmos that they must never be released.
The Ethereal Plane has the following planar traits:
- Alterable Morphic: The plane contains little to alter, however.
- Normal Magic: Spells function normally on the Ethereal Plane, though they do not cross into the Material Plane. The only exceptions are spells and spell-like abilities that have the force descriptor and abjuration spells that affect ethereal beings; these can cross from the Material Plane to the Ethereal Plane. Spellcasters on the Material Plane must have some way to detect foes on the Ethereal Plane before targeting them with force-based spells. While it’s possible to hit ethereal enemies with a force spell cast on the Material Plane, the reverse isn’t possible. No magical attacks cross from the Ethereal Plane to the Material Plane, including force attacks.